Frederick Taft, 57, was attending a family reunion in a Long Beach, Calif., park over when he was shot and killed inside the restroom.
Relatives told the Los Angeles Times that they believe the doting grandfather was targeted because of his race.
The murder occurred at about 4:30 p.m. July 21 at Pan American Park, where between 40 and 50 people, most of whom were black, attended the family reunion.
Sakeena Christmon, a friend of Taft’s said that she saw a man carrying a rifle run out of the bathroom after the shooting. She described the man as wearing khaki shorts, calf-high socks and a fishing hat, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Taft was reportedly alone in the bathroom at the time of the shooting, Christmon believes that the killing was motivated by race, and premeditated.
“He came here on a mission to kill,” she insisted of the killer.
“It wasn’t a robbery. They didn’t take his wallet. So what else was it?” Mareatha Moore, the mother of Taft’s daughter, questioned, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Taft’s daughter, Corie, said that after the shooting, a softball player nearby told the family that his group had been harassed by a group of white men on bicycles who were hurling racial slurs. Shortly after that, a man pulled up in a white Prius, laughing and yelling something about a “187 in the park” (slang referencing section 187 of the California Penal Code which defines the crime of murder) before speeding off, reports the Los Angeles Times.
According to ABC7, there was also a racial slur carved into a bench near where the family was gathered.
Long Beach police spokesperson Arantxa Chavarria, however, said that investigators had not “uncovered any evidence of a hate crime.”
“Evidence is still being collected and analyzed,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
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